Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Getting Ready for Christmas....

In search of the perfect tree.....


We took the kids out of school early on a Friday so we could get our tree before it got too dark. It was FREEZING cold outside so we bundled up good. After driving over acres and acres of trees with the kids riding in the back of the trailer we found the perfect tree. It was a little shorter than Daddy had wanted. He kept picking out trees that he thought would fit in our house but I think he was forgetting how tall 8 foot ceilings are. He would get so excited about finding the perfect tree and after we'd all come to look I'd have to burst his bubble by telling him it was way too tall. This happened a couple of times. "It's not too tall, it's perfect!" he'd say. But after being put to the tape-measure test, he learned that an 11 foot tree can look like an 7 foot tree when you're out in the open woods. (:



Decking our Halls


I love traditional Christmas decorations. Red, Gold and Green are the only colors I need.....
Every year though Aaron reminds me that I'm "no fun" because I won't let him put colored lights on the tree. Our compromise is that he gets to put colored lights on the outside of our house.
"I'm sorry honey but you married an interior decorator- I'm never going to be okay with colored lights on the tree." He usually mumbles something about white lights being boring and colored lights being magical. Hopefully though, (even without the colored lights) our children will still remember our Christmas decorations as being magical.



Gingerbread House


This gingerbread house was decorated entirely by the kids and also eaten entirely too. We put the house on the piano when it was done and within 24 hours every piece of candy had been picked off and eaten. I even saw Jacob leaning across the piano on his stomach taking a bite out of the tree using only his teeth. It must have been pretty yummy, but I guess I'll never know because now it's gone. (:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Did you know that Tiffany's makes CTR rings?


Just kidding.
I about died laughing this morning after the following conversation:



Jacob: "Mom, you're going to be really mad at Joseph....."

Me: "Uh Oh, what did he do?"

Jacob: "You know the ring box that Daddy gave you when he asked you to marry him?"

Me:
"Yeeeees.....?" (I'm nervous now)

Jacob:
"Well, Joseph snuck into your jewelry box last night and stole it so he could put his CTR ring in it. He wanted to give it to Lauren.

Me: (sigh of relief)

Jacob: "He told me not to tell you and promised if I didn't, that he'd stop talking and go to sleep. (Joseph is always keeping Jacob up at night)
But now it's morning....."




I really needed that laugh

Monday, December 21, 2009

Veteran's Day

On Veterans day the kids were out of school and I spent some time showing them YouTube clips from past wars and educating them about the reason we have veterans day. I had them make some thank-you cards to take to the Veterans Home in the town where we live. Someone from school had given me this idea and I'm so glad we went. I thought I'd done an acceptable job teaching them with my YouTube clips that morning but nothing I taught them about freedom, military service and sacrifice came close to the impact that visiting those veterans did. Some of them were old, (WWII) some were younger, (Vietnam & Gulf), some had missing limbs. We only spent about 30 minutes there, walking the halls and visiting some of them in their rooms. But in that time they learned much more than I could have ever taught them. They were shy at first then became more comfortable and soon were okay with shaking some of their hands and thanking them for their service. One man there told us the story about how he had lied about his age and joined the army when he was 16 in WWII because he wanted to fight so bad. Another woman I met was a Marine veteran during WWII! I couldn't believe it! I kept telling her how tough she was to do that! I was seriously so impressed.

I really am so grateful for all the men and women who have fought, served and died fighting for a righteous cause. When I watch old movie clips about the soldiers fighting against Nazi Germany and the freedoms that they restored to those areas of the world it makes my heart beam with pride. While I was in basic training in the Air Force I grew to love our nation and the principles of freedom that our nation was built upon. I learned while in Boot Camp that I have a fighting spirit and a a warrior-like desire to liberate the captive and uphold the individual freedom and rights of all men. It was great to be able to meet with these heroes and express our thanks to them for the sacrifices they have made in support of freedom.




Halloween

Around this time last year our boys were introduced to Star Wars. It didn't take long for them to fall in love with anything Star Wars or to request in advance what they wanted to be for Halloween next year. Now, I'll admit Lauren didn't specifically say that she wanted to be Princess Leia but she didn't say she didn't want to. So how could I possibly resist putting that tiny little wig on that cute little head? She even informed me that she needed some lip gloss (very observant girl) because Princess Leia always has shiny lips. I think I had as much fun as the kids did this year. I had a permanent smile on my face the entire time I was helping them get into their costumes. I was that annoying Mom beaming with pride the entire night wanting everyone to see how cute the kids looked in their costumes.



Pumpkin Patch

We love going to the pumpkin patch at Hunter Farms. I'm so glad we went early this year because October turned out to be a very rainy month. Sometimes we've gone when it's rained and the field is a mucky, muddy mess. This year was perfect; cool, dry and plenty of pumpkins. The kids each enjoyed picking out their pumpkin to carry back to the wagon. The rule is that they can pick any pumpkin but they have to be able to carry it out of the patch. With three competitive boys, I have a feeling that one day our trip to the pumpkin patch will get a bit pricey as they each try to prove how "strong" they are. But for now it's just so much fun to see how excited they get choosing their pumpkins. Lauren had a hard time making up her mind. In the end she picked the tiniest, cutest little pumpkin ever-ironic, isn't it?


The Race


I was really worried about the race this year. Our high school cross country team holds this race every year for all of the elementary schools in the district. They divide the kids up by grade and gender so everyone is running against their peers. I believe it's a 400 meter course (equivalent to 2 laps around a track-I think). Last year Jacob took 1st for the first grade boys and so you can imagine that he had every intention of defending his title. This year Joseph would be running too and he had every intention of getting 1st place like his brother had done. I was trying to teach them the importance of competing against yourself and I even wrote down Jacob's time from last year and encouraged him to focus on beating that time. But no matter what I said they both had their heart set on that blue ribbon. Jacob even shared with me his "strategy" a couple days before, and I can tell you he was really putting a lot of thought into this. There is already so much competition between the boys I knew that Joseph felt he needed to get 1st place to prove to his brother that he was "as fast as Jacob was in first grade." And so I had no idea what to even hope for (besides hoping that they would both win first place). But I knew this was very unlikely. And so when the day of the race arrived all I could do was to encourage them to do their best and prepare them for the possibility of defeat. Then, secretly I prayed and prayed for Him to orchestrate the best possible outcome.

Joseph's group was first and he ran his little heart out and got 3rd place! We were very proud of him but as you can see from the pictures he was devastated at the result. It broke my heart to see him so sad when he should have been so happy. We did all we could to praise and console him but it wasn't until Jacob ran and also got 3rd place that things turned around. I nearly cried in gratitude to my Heavenly Father for indeed orchestrating the best possible outcome. Jacob was humbled, (which was good for him-trust me), and Joseph who idolizes Jacob suddenly realized that he had done as good as his brother and was now beaming with pride. I love the picture with all three boys and Jacob and Joseph holding up their 3rd place ribbons. A picture says 1000 words.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lauren's 3rd Birthday


Little girl with your Daddy's eyes
you warm your mothers heart.

Your sweet little hugs and happy smile,
are only just the start....

Everything you say and do,
is so adorable and cute.
And day after day I wish you could stay,
my little girl forever.

Happy Birthday Lauren,
With love from your mother.

(September 27th 2009)


This birthday was a highly anticipated event in this little girls life. At least six months before she turned 3 she began telling me what kind of party she wanted to have for her next birthday. First, she said she wanted a "kitty party." Then it became a"Tinkerbell" party. Then, after seeing the Little Mermaid this summer she wanted an "Ariel" birthday. But her most recent interest has been in Cinderella. And so, Cinderella it was. Complete with the crown and glowing wand that Daddy brought home from work. Her Cinderella doll Cake with fondant frosting turned out just as I had hoped but not without great effort and a very late (or early) night spent decorating it.

Later in the week she had a birthday party with all of her little friends. They made princess crowns with glue-on jewels and ate cupcakes, drank pink punch and enjoyed frolicking around the house in their little princess dresses. The boys got home from school just as her party was coming to a close. When they walked through the door their eyes bugged out and Joseph exclaimed..... "Mom, this is such a pretty party!" I guess a "girly" party is something these boys haven't seen very often.



Lauren at 3 years old


Here are some little things about Lauren at 3 years old....

-Lauren loves her kitty. She carries her around like a baby doll and gives her lots of love and affection.

-Lauren loves "helping" mommy in the kitchen when I'm baking or making dinner. She is famous for climbing up onto the counter to sit down next to the bowl sneaking licks and begging to take her turn stirring.

-Lauren loves stories and more recently has developed an interest in fairy tales and princess stories. Any time we go to the library she grabs the books with the pinkest, girliest covers on them. Lately I've been finding her up in her room next to her bookcase "reading" stories aloud to herself or to her kitty who is sitting in her lap.

-Lauren loves to sing songs and she loves making songs up while driving in the car. We love her songs but she gets very embarassed when we mention anything about them. She will usually stop singing if she thinks we're listening because she usually gets embarassed. Most of her songs are little stories. She talks about everyday things in a sing song way. It's very cute. Here is an example of her singing one of the first songs she learned.....

video

-Lauren also likes to be sung to. Her favorite songs that she requests for me to sing are Disney Princess songs. She will say, "Mom, sing me the Snow White song", (or Cinderella, Belle or Ariel, etc.) So I sing her one of the theme songs from that movie with my best princess sounding voice impression. She loves it and smiles with delight before asking me to sing another one. One of the funniest ones I do is the Little Mermaid one where Ariel is singing the AHHHH, AHHHHH, scale going higher and higher until she says, "Oh, Eric!" She will ask me to sing the "oh, Eric" song. It is so cute and funny.

-Lauren loves dressing up. She has one pair of pink dress up shoes that she loves clomping around the house in. She also loves wearing her pretty nightgowns and Sunday dresses. I already know what we'll be getting her for Christmas. She also loves princess crowns. I made her one out of aluminum foil and some craft gemstones I had around the house. It looked so junky but she loved it and wore it all the time until it finally broke.


-Lauren is a good balance of being girly and tough . It's not uncommon to see her dressed up in her dress-up shoes and fancy sunday best while duking it out with her brothers light-sabers or nerf gun.

-Lauren is fearless. As I wrote about in an earlier post, she is not afraid of many things. She is not timid at all especially when it comes to trying new things and not being afraid of the unknown. She is not scared to approach big animals or hold chickens while they flap her in the face with her wings. She cracks me up.

-Lauren is very spunky and assertive. She has a very naturally sweet personality but if she is crossed (especially by her brothers) she has no problem asserting herself and putting them in their place.

-Something cute that Lauren does is to hop up and down when she gets excited. It is so cute and actually reminds me of something similar I used to do as a little girl.

-Lauren loves her Daddy. She loves snuggling him and hugging him and he loves the attention and affection he gets from his little girl. She can melt his heart in an instant with her little hugs around his neck. Every night after we have family prayer and scriptures Aaron takes Lauren to her room while I read to the boys. He has his own little bedtime routine that he does with her....I'll have to get him to record it here:

Me- Who's my angel?
Lauren- Me
Me- Who's my sweetheart?
Lauren-Me
Me- Who's my princess?
Lauren- Me
Me- Who do I love?
Lauren- I love you too, Daddy.

Me- Have sweet dreams okay?
Lauren- okay
Me- What are you going to have dreams about?
Lauren- um, butterflies and princesses and fairies and angels and godmothers and flowers....


-Lauren is a silly little girl that loves to get a laugh. Here is an example of her silliness. She was making a funny face one day at lunch.....



video


Happy Birthday Lauren. You are a joy and a delight to all of us, we love you!


Jacob's Baptism



This is a copy of the slideshow presentation shown during the intermission of his baptism.

I was secretly so grateful that Jacob was the only child of record baptism this month so that it could be his own special day and because we were able to be so involved in the planning of the program. He was able to choose the speakers and who would offer the prayers as well as choose the songs he wanted to be sung. And because he was the only one being baptized we were able to share this slideshow during the intermission while he and Aaron were changing out of their wet clothes.



Making this slideshow was a labor of love for me. After countless hours of sorting pictures and editing my heart was full as I watched the final result. I was literally in tears as I watched my baby boy grow up before my eyes all the while remembering the 8 wonderful years that we've enjoyed. I was also grateful for the opportunity that doing this project gave me to focus on Jacob and reflect upon his growth. As I burned the midnight oil sorting through thousands of pictures I was flooded with so many sweet memories. It was an emotional experience for me to chronicle his young life and to focus on him as a child of God.


I know that Jacob is more than just my son, he is my Heavenly Father's child and I've been entrusted with his care and been given a sacred responsibility to help him find his way in life and guide him to the path that will lead him back to God. He is such a special young boy with such a good heart. He genuinely wants to be good and do the right things in his life. It warms my heart as his mother to see the seed of faith take root in his heart and begin to grow.



I felt such a sweet and peaceful spirit in our home the week leading up to his baptism. It ended up being such a special experience for our whole family. Later when we were looking back at the pictures from his baptism I was so touched to see this ray of light that we hadn't noticed when the picture was being taken. I know it may sound silly but it sort of made me feel that Heavenly Father was smiling down upon our little family. I'm so grateful for everyone who showed their support and for those who were able to come and be a part of his special day.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Back to School

My Big School Boys
(Jacob- 2nd grade, Benjamin-Kindergarten, Joseph-1st grade)


I never thought I would be the type Mom that felt like celebrating when the kids headed back to school but after the summer was over and Jacob and Joseph were in school all day I was amazed at the difference it made in our home. In hindsight I realize that it was the day to day grind of being with the kids 24/7 and dealing with all of their drama that after a couple of months it was really starting to wear me down. During the last few weeks of August I felt like I was slipping into a pit of depression, surrendering to feelings of inadequacy as a mother. My patience was worn thin, I felt so overwhelmed and overstressed. I was tired of playing referee to the kids daily quarrels, tired of picking up the never ending messes and frustrated that I didn't have time to do all the things that needed to be done. I had become a broken record of "Please, stop fighting and get along!" To put it mildly, I was not enjoying motherhood. And then one September morning Jacob and Joseph got on the bus and it was like someone waved a magic wand. We walked back up the driveway went inside the house and for the rest of the day there was NO fighting or time-outs, NO assigning push-ups or dealing with meltdowns and there was peace and quiet in our home. It was almost like someone had released a decompression valve and all of the chaos and stress melted away revealing a peaceful home and a much happier Mama.


Then, the following week Benjamin started half-day Kindergarten so for 4 hours every morning I have only 1 child at home. Can you believe it! Who would have ever thought this day would come? Never could I have imagined what a difference this would make in my life. Now, when I'm dealing with behavioral issues or grumpy kids in the morning or the occasional meltdown over something ridiculous I feel like I can easily maintain my calm and patiently work through the morning because I know that no matter how bad it gets my house will be a peaceful haven in less than an hour when all those boys get on that big yellow bus. And when they get home from school (8 glorious hours later) I'm so happy to see them and hear about their day. I can focus on their needs because I've had all that time to deal with my other things. I feel so renewed in my desire to be the best mother I can because now I only get them for such a short time I want to make it good. So here's to celebrating not the return of the school day but the return of a happy mother.


Benjamin on his first day of Kindergarten. He was so excited to be a "big boy" and ride the bus with his brothers. It's always a little sad for me though to be saying goodbye to another sweet little guy.


Jacob's Birthday

September 17th

Today was Jacob's 8th Birthday. Before he went to school I thought it would be fun to get out my old journal and read about the day he was born and other entries from shortly after his birth. One of them totally took me back and I remembered the moment so clearly. I can't believe how much time has gone by since that moment. It is so hard to believe my sweet little baby boy is now 8 years old. Here is the entry that nearly brought me to tears...

September 24th 2001:
"It was one week ago today that Jacob was born. Jacob woke up this morning around 4:45am and I was nursing him and changing him. All the while I was watching the clock waiting for it to reach 5:26am (the exact time at which he was born) and remembering what I was doing exactly one week before. I'm so happy that he is finally here but there's a part of me that gets sad the farther and farther away from that special day that we get. I just have this feeling when I look at my perfect little baby boy that time is already passing and these moments with him being so small are fleeting away with each day. I will never be able to go back and hold him as a newborn- only a day old. Or remember so well how warm and slippery his little body felt when he was laid on my chest for the first time. He is so precious, I just don't want these moments to ever end."

After reading some journal entries (all about him of course) we walked down the driveway to catch the bus for school. All the while I was keeping an eye on the clock waiting for it to be 8:26am (5:26am Hawaii time -which is where he was born) At that precise moment when I saw the numbers changed I paused for a magical moment realizing that is was exactly 8 years ago to the minute that he was born. *Sigh*



The picture on the far right is of him walking down the driveway holding his box of birthday treats for his class. I made him an ice-cream cake (as requested) for his birthday that evening and tried to make it look like a soccer ball with the oreo cookies. I also learned how hard it is to draw a soccer ball when the night before I was decorating and tried to turn white balloons into soccer balls with a black permanent marker. I was up until 2am decorating and trying to get all of those silly balloons to look like soccer balls. His reaction was well worth the effort though. Even if I was a zombie the next day. I really love seeing his excited eyes when he comes downstairs in the morning and everything is decorated for his birthday. He calls it "birthday magic". Sometimes I get so sleepy and tired when I'm up the night before the kids birthdays but the thought of how happy it makes them is what keeps me going to do my best and try to make it special for them no matter how tired I am.
For his birthday dinner he chose his favorite food- BBQ steak. We had a family party with the highlight of his birthday gifts being a scavenger hunt that led him outside to two soccer goals that Aaron had made. The picture on the bottom right is of him putting together the Star Wars model he got.



For his Saturday party with his friends all he wanted to do was have a big soccer game in the front yard. After going to the boys 3 soccer games that morning we had to rush home so I could frost his cake before the kids arrived. That stinking cake was so hard to frost I was inside for half the party trying to finish it! I will never do a soccer ball cake again. The kids had fun and Jacob enjoyed doing what he loves (playing soccer) with his friends. It was a great party.





All About Jacob
at 8 years old



-Jacob has a great deal of personal integrity. You can always count on him to do the right thing even when it's not easy. He is definitely a Rule Follower. His honesty and trustworthiness have led to his parents and teachers to depend on him many times to help sort through unknown situations involving other kids at home and at school. I have never known him to intentionally lie or deceive. It has never been in his nature to do so and as he's grown older maintaining that honesty has become not only important to him, but something he prides himself on.

- Jacob has come out of his shell a lot more this year among his peers. He used to be very quiet and shy but this year I've noticed him being more outgoing and friendly. In recent months I've also heard several reports from teachers and other adults that he's a great leader to others. Here are some examples that I thought I'd share:

1. A friend of mine who works as a teacher aid in his class told me that when Jacob finishes his work he frequently helps the other kids at his table who might need help or who are struggling with the assignment.

2. His cub scout leader told me that they were playing football in the gym and one of the boys (who was not very athletic) became frustrated and sat down on the sidelines while the other boys continued to play. The next time Jacob had the ball he called to this boy to "catch" and threw a pass to him drawing him back into the game.

3. His 2nd grade teacher told me that when other kids in class are not doing what they're supposed to he will often be found encouraging them to stay on task or follow the rules.

- Jacob is a very confident boy. He is very competitive and driven to do his best and feels secure in who he is. He often brings home reports of how he plays soccer at recess and scores goals against the 5th graders or of how he's always the first one to finish the mile run in P.E. I am grateful that he is assured in who he is and is aware of his strengths and talents but I am even more grateful that he is kind and gracious toward his peers and although he is confident in what he does he never puts others down or compares himself to others in a way that would undermine their confidence.

-Jacob tries his best to establish himself as the big brother in our home but as the other boys get older he is meeting increased resistance. He is learning that he has to compromise and be more fair in the "rules" that he makes otherwise conflict is sure to follow and as his brothers grow bigger and stronger that means that sometimes he is on the receiving end of a fist . He also enjoys being a big brother to Lauren as well. He continues to adore her and relishes in her affection.

-Things he likes to do: During the school year Jacob has very little spare time. Between homework, sports, piano lessons and cub scouts his spare time is limited. But on weekends and during summer and school breaks Jacob seems to enjoy building things the most. Whether its making race cars or star ships out of legos, building racetracks or launching pads with the magnet blocks or digging tunnels and making sand forts out at the sand pit. I find him most content quietly building and creating. He does not draw as much anymore as he used to but I'll still find occasional pictures that he's made usually they're STAR WARS battle scenes complete with facial expression, sound effects, weapons and more. He does still enjoy doing art projects at home and school and continues to show artistic interest and talent.

-Jacob loves sports. His favorite sport is soccer but he loves playing anything that has a ball. Since he turned 8 we told him he's going to have to pick 1 sport a year to focus on. He's been playing seasonal sports since he was 4 but now that we have 3 boys that have done the same we're realizing that persisting on this course would throw our life off balance. We know that doing sports is a good thing but we want to encourage the boys to have a healthy balance of activities and talents. So when they turn 8 and start doing cub scouts they have to choose one sport season a year. Jacob also enjoys watching sports with Aaron. Whether live or on T.V. Aaron now has a little buddy that also enjoys watching the game. We don't watch a ton of sports in our house (especially since we canceled our satellite-No more ESPN). But when the playoffs, finals are some other big game is on he enjoys following the action and totally gets into it-sometimes even more than Aaron does!

-Jacob does not play video games or watch a lot of T.V. But his favorite show is the animated STAR WARS clone wars. He will occasionally catch an episode of Arthur on PBS which he also enjoys but since we canceled our satellite he really doesn't have a lot of viewing options and so he just ends up doing other things. We have however introduced the boys to SMURFS and HE-Man. We discovered a website (hulu.com) with hundreds of shows (old and new) that you can watch online. Aaron hooked up a special cable from our computer to the TV in the living room so that they can watch these shows on the weekends. Jacob also enjoys movie nights that we try to have at least once a month. He loves any of the STAR WARS movies but recently enjoyed watching one of my favorites, The Never Ending Story. This weekend he's pretty excited about watching the old version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory since we've almost finished reading the book.

-Jacob is an excellent student. Recently I was volunteering at the school and his teacher was sharing with me how much she appreciates having him in class. "He's so wonderful, I wish I could just clone him!" she said. His favorite subject in school is math. But he's a very strong reader and a great writer. I love how this school has the kids do their daily writing assignments in a bound notebook. Every time I come in to volunteer my favorite part of the day is pulling out his notebook and reading all of his past entries. His writing is very entertaining and includes many details. I love reading about what's important to him and hearing him describe his experiences and express himself.

-Jacob continues to amaze me with his eating. Especially at dinner time. He is easily eating as much as Aaron and eats everything put in front of him without complaint. It is so nice! I try to put a fruit and vegetable in his lunch everyday and recently he asked me if I could cut up a bell pepper to put in there because "they're so good." His favorite dessert is fudgey brownies but aside from that he doesn't really eat any sweets aside from the other baked desserts I make. I have noticed with Jacob that the way to his heart is definitely through his stomach. I receive the most unprompted affection from him when he sees me making cookies, brownies or anything else yummy. He'll throw his arms around me and squeeze me so tight saying, "Thank you Mom, Thank you. I LOVE you!" So funny.

- Jacob is a very hard worker and usually does his chores without complaint. His chores at this age include the following: Bringing the goats out to pasture before school (Joseph brings them in at night), gathering eggs and keeping the chickens fed and watered, unloading the dishwasher, cleaning organizing the shoe closet, folding and putting away his laundry, sweeping the kitchen floor, cleaning out the kitty litter, sweeping and cleaning off the front porch, and taking out the garbage. He also helps with cleaning up the playroom and cleaning his bedroom. On weekends (when we're in an off season for sports) he helps Aaron with outdoor chores of helping stack the wood in the shed that Aaron chops from fallen trees on the property. Jacob only does his animal chores daily. The other chores listed are ones he does when requested by me. Usually every day after school I'll give each of the boys one or two household chores based upon the needs of that day. On weekends I wash up their laundry from the week and they are in charge of folding and putting it away.


Jacob, you are truly a joy in my life. I'm so pleased to be your mother and to watch you grow and develop into the fine young man you are becoming. I love you with all of my heart. Happy Birthday sweetheart!


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

August Highlights

Just a few memories from the month of August....

Benjamin sheds his training wheels
On our last camping trip of the summer we brought the kids bikes with us so they could ride around the paved roads of the campground. Benjamin has been riding on his training wheels for a very long time now and Aaron has tried many times to persuade him to take them off but he never wanted to do it. This time though we were camping with his cousins (Rachel & Riley) who also brought their bikes. He soon realized that his training wheels were holding him back from keeping up with the rest of the kids so when Aaron encouraged him to take them off he was more eager to try. I love this picture because Aaron is promising him 2 chocolate chip cookies if he will try to ride his bike without the training wheels. You can see Ben is considering it but I think in the end it wasn't until he was promised 3 cookies that he finally got the nerve to try it. By the end of the weekend he was riding around with the best of them.




Blackberry Pies
This was definitely the summer of Blackberry pies. The kids were hooked on the first one I made and day after day would pick a bowl full of blackberries asking me if I would make another pie. I think we had a blackberry pie three nights in a row one week. How can you say no though when they're the ones doing all the work? This is a picture of Aaron's sister Suzy when she came to visit with her girls. I was gone that evening but left them a pie to eat. When I got home they had picked another bowl of blackberries so that I could make them another pie the next day. Just as a sidenote-I didn't get any blackberry jam made this year......I'm sure you can guess why.




Summer Chores
At the beginning of the summer Aaron gave the boys some summer chores. Their big project was to paint the old shed out by the sand pit. They were also supposed to gather 10 fallen big sticks or 5 large branches every day to gather in a big pile to be burned. Our acreage is primarily made up of Alder trees which fall down easily in winter/fall wind storms so there are plenty of branches to clean up over the 6.5 acres. They finished the shed just days before school started with very little help or supervising. The only drawback to having them do it was the mess it made and having to clean out their brushes and rollers after every time they worked on it. It almost seemed like more work for me but it kept them busy and now our shed isn't turquoise green.





Nezzy has kittens
After our cat went missing for a couple of days she found her way home and we soon realized she was pregnant! We never took Nezzy in to get fixed because she was a free kitten given to us after our other young cat had been hit by a car. Since we were on our third kitten in less than a year we didn't feel like spending any more money on vaccinations or spaying until we knew she was going to be around for a while. Well, she made it to her 1 year birthday and soon after that is when she got pregnant. I was actually thrilled with the idea of her having kittens because I knew how exciting it would be for the kids. As the time for her delivery grew closer I kept hoping that she would give birth during the day when the kids were awake so they could be a part of the experience. I have to admit that I prayed several times about it too. So it was really neat that she went into labor just minutes after the last child left from Ben's Birthday party on a Saturday afternoon. She gave birth in a little bed we made for her in the laundry room and the kids all gathered around a few feet away and were able to watch the kittens being born. She had 4 kittens and it took her about 2 hours to deliver all of them but it was such a special experience for all of us to be there while it happened. We were all together sitting on the floor and there was such a peacefulness there in the room as the kids quietly observed the miracle of life.

When the kittens got older the kids gave them names: Blackie, Golden Eye, White Stripe & Lucky. We found homes for them among our friends and let the kids keep one. They chose Golden eye-the scraggliest, but toughest one of the bunch. I think that there's something about little kittens that really teaches little children tenderness and love. I was so touched by how careful and loving they were with the kittens. Some mornings I'd sleep in and wake up to find the kids down in the laundry room watching them (and as they got older) holding them. I also learned that my husband is a big softy for kittens. He loved holding and snuggling them every bit as much as the kids.

A Bittersweet Birthday

Benjamin turns 5

(Ben- taken the night before his 5th birthday)

When your sweet son slips from the realm of babyhood into the world of boyhood a pain enters your heart. Not long after their 5th birthday you start to notice the change. Their bodies go from being soft, squishy and snugly to being lean, firm, and muscly. And although it makes you proud to see them grow up so strong your heart aches to remember the moments when their cheeks were plump and their kisses were slobbery and their chubby little arms squeezed you tightly around your neck.

On Ben's 5th birthday I felt like I wanted to cry. It hurt my heart to have to face the reality that my last little boy was no longer a baby. Soon he will follow his brothers into the world of boyhood and all that will be left behind of my sweet baby sons are their leftover sippy cups (still kept in the drawer), their old binky's (tucked away in their memory boxes), pictures, home movies, and the bits and pieces of random memories that rest in my mother heart.

I remember when I was pregnant with Lauren I was sorting through the boys clothes and doing the rotation from one size to the next and as I folded up Ben's outgrown clothes (he was less than 2 at the time) and preparing to place them in marked Rubbermaid bins, something whispered to me, "you won't be taking these out again." I paused for a moment looking at the outfits that were handed down from son to son each boy taking their turn wearing the same clothes and I thought, "Wow, I wonder if Ben will be my last little boy." At that point I did not know if I was pregnant with a boy or girl and I also wouldn't have thought (at that point in my life) that this would be the last time I would be pregnant. I'm grateful that Heavenly Father gave me that moment to reflect upon this unknown reality as I folded up those little boy clothes for the last time and tucked them away lovingly in that Rubbermaid bin. As I snapped the lid over the top of those clothes I was struck with the possibility that every time I put away Ben's outgrown clothes I wouldn't be passing them down to any more sons. This was it, he was the caboose and the end of my little boy train.

And so on Ben's 5th birthday it was a bittersweet moment for me to wave farewell to those baby boy years that passed all too quickly it makes me cry just thinking about it. And now I can only turn to the days at hand when I must savor these present years of boyhood because all too soon my sweet young sons will grow into young men and I will be missing this phase in which they are now in. How quickly the years fly by, how fleeting these moments are. I hope that in heaven I will be permitted to relive those years holding each of my baby boys in my arms again. Because as hard as those days were they were still so full of joy.

Here is a poem that I wrote years ago that helps me remember my sweet young sons and the joy that they brought to my life during their baby years:


WHAT IS JOY

If the walls of our home found a voice
And spoke of the love within
And a mother’s joy was put into words
This is what would be penned.....

“My little ones, my little sons
You’ve filled my soul in so many ways
Never before, until you were here
Did I know what true joy was.

Your little hugs around my neck
The slobbery kisses on my cheek
Your unprompted 'I love you’s' that melt my heart
These are the blessings of life

At morning’s light you awake from bed
with sunshine in your happy face
Excited to see me, “Mommy” you scream
As you reach for my embrace.

Watching you play in your cute little ways
The silly things you do and say
Dandelions offered in tight chubby fists
Oh, these are the rarest of gifts!

Discovering the world in new shining ways
The wonder of all God’s creations
A little bug, the falling of leaves, a squirrel
That jumps from tree to tree

Reading stories with you on my lap
Or lying in bed before your nap
Singing you songs as you drift off to sleep
Your soft blond hair smells so sweet.

Those plump little tears that roll down your cheeks
My finger stops their fall
I rock and sway til the pain goes away
Then send you back outside to play.

Eagerness to learn, excitement for life
Unfolding with each new day
A new way of looking at this world
When seen through the eyes of my child

Day by day I watch you grow
Knowing the sands of time will flow
Each rare moment holds in its grasp
A potential memory that in time will pass

I take these moments, the world can wait
The cleaning and cooking will fade away
They are mine and I savor their texture
The way they feel and smell and sound

Sunny little boys you are my joy
A new awakening of what is real
Life and love and joy inside
Swell from my mother heart

The noise of the day from you boys at play
Can fill this house to the brim
But oh how quiet and lonesome it would be
without the sound of your voices

I know the day soon will come
When peace and quiet will return
But until that day I hope and I pray
That I’ll treasure these sounds within.”

By: Andria Laws
October 16, 2005




Memories from Ben's 5th Birthday Party
August 5th



This was our third and final STAR WARS themed birthday party. I am running out of new ideas for birthday cakes and party games so even though all the boys are still totally into STAR WARS I told them that this was going to have to be the last one. I made Ben a Yoda cake (because he loves Yoda) and I took the boys down to the docks in Gig Harbor to go fishing for the day. It was a lot of fun and we came home that evening to have Ben's birthday dinner and family party. His favorite gift was his clone trooper blaster that (yes I'm the one that got it for him) makes a lot of annoying sounds but he loves it so much that I know I'll survive it somehow.


We advertised Ben's party as having the "world's biggest slip and slide" which got a great response. I made the slip and slide with heavy duty plastic and landscaping darts and it stretched down our hill for 50 feet. Even that length wasn't long enough as they continued to slide with full speed into the grass at the end. The weather had been hot all week (this was in August) but that Saturday it turned cold and started to sprinkle. Aaron hooked the hose up to the hot water heater in the basement and kept a steady stream of warm water on the slide which made it much more inviting.


The homemade pinata was a little too strong and took forever to break but the boys were impressed with my Yoda painting and quickly busted 2 hours worth of my time all for the sake of getting to the candy inside. I loved the pile of light sabers in the grass and the boys doing Jedi battles in the living room earlier in the party. Little boys are so cute and so much fun. I made Yoda popcorn balls to put in the kids goody bags and Aaron made the light saber cake for the day of the party. He was very proud of his artwork but totally bummed when the cake cracked down the middle just minutes before the guests arrived. I don't think they really cared though. (: Overall it was a great party and a fun time for all the boys.



All About Ben
at 5 years old



Favorite Things: Favorite color: Red. Favorite show: Star Wars Clone Wars. Favorite Sport: Soccer. Favorite food: chilli. Favorite dessert: brownies. Favorite Book: Benjamins Balloon. Favorite Primary Song: Book of Mormon Stories.

Chores: Unloading the dishwasher, folding his laundry and putting it away, picking up toys in the playroom, cleaning out the kitty litter box, organizing the shoe closet, sweeping the stairs. Helping his brothers bring in the goats at night.

Personality & Behaviors:
-Something I love about Ben are his hugs. He gives the sweetest unprompted hugs. And because he is so short they usually hit you right around your waist or upper leg. I was shopping at Wal-Mart recently and while pushing the cart he wrapped his little arms around my waist and gave me a big hug as I was going down the aisle. So sweet. My favorite is when I'll be in the kitchen cooking or cleaning and he will just come up and hug me around my leg. At night when we tuck him in he'll frequently say "no kisses!" but he's always eager to give us hugs.

-Ben has a bashful look that we just love. We see it most often when he's playing sports and makes a goal or does something else impressive. Most kids would probably get a big smile on their face and look at you for approval. Ben however will suppress that urge to smile and try not to make eye contact with anyone as he walks away with a "Mr. cool" look on his face. It cracks us up!

-Benjamin is my early riser. He's almost always the first one to wake up in the morning. I have many memories of him coming down to the basement in his pajamas and rubber boots to hang out with me while I finish working out. Usually the reason Ben wakes up so early is because he's hungry for breakfast. "Make breakfast Mom or I'm starving Mom!" Are often the first things he says.

- Ben eats great for breakfast and lunch (usually out-eating his older brothers). At lunch sometimes I end up making him 2 sandwiches (on 100% whole wheat) because after the first one he'll say "More, Mama." It's amazing! At dinner, however, it's a different story. He has little to no interest in eating and is frequently dissatisfied with what is being served. We're working with him on table manners and trying to teach him that saying "this is disgusting" or "gross" is not okay. He can be very picky but is usually pretty good about eating a few bites of everything before he leaves the table.

-Something we don't necessarily love about Ben at this age is the all to common phrase we hear escaping his lips, "let me have it!" or "give it to me!" It is literally like nails on a chalkboard for Aaron and I. We will hear him upstairs playing with the boys and then that angry outburst will be repeated over and over again until he gets what he wants-which never happens soon enough. It actually makes us more mad at him than it does at the perpetrator who's making him say it. He does it in such a way that he's trying to sound tough and threatening to his brothers but it sounds so angry and hateful that more often we get mad at him for saying it than we do at the brother who has wronged him. Which brings me to the next thing about Ben....

-We are also learning that Ben has a temper. He reminds me of myself at his age when I use to get so fired up about things I'd grab the first thing I saw and chuck it at my offender. My poor brother almost got hit in the head with a rock and I busted our remote into pieces because my brother ducked and it hit the wall. So it may be a genetic predisposition, but he'll have to learn to control it too. Most often when he blows up it will result in very angry tones, usually toward Lauren. We call this his "angry voice." He will alsol pound his brothers with his fist if he's in the middle of a rage. But that usually results in him getting pounded back so that doesn't work out very well for him.

-Benjamin is a very assertive little boy. He started Kindergarten this fall and with all the stories he brings home about "bad" kids that do mean things I'm not the slightest bit worried about him being bullied. And after meeting with his teacher this week for his Parent/Teacher conference something she shared with me only confirmed that. She told us a cute story about something she observed in class one time. A boy at his table had grabbed a crayon out of his hand that he was coloring with. Without missing a beat, Ben "muscled" it back out of his hands and continued using it to color his picture. The other boy was surprised but didn't object and they both went on with what they were doing. Aaron has said many times that he feels sorry for the kid that messes with Ben because Ben is naturally a very sweet natured boy but if he's crossed he will defend himself and he is a very tough kid.

-Ben is very tough. Solid, is the word we usually use to describe him. He can crank out 25 push-ups with perfect form with no breaks. Sometimes when we punish him with push-ups we'll give him 50 or more and his response will be, "okay, I don't care." And he'll get down on the ground and bust the out with only a few rests in between.

-Ben loves to draw pictures of race cars and STAR WARS battle scenes. He is also very sweet about picking flowers for me and in the spring and summer almost daily he would bring me in hand-picked flowers from outside to "put in a vase" and have sitting on my kitchen windowsill. He is also very fond of finding pretty rocks which he excitedly brings in to show me. I'm not sure if he gets them because he loves them or if he loves my reaction when I see them. (I try to get very excited about them because it makes him feel special). But now I'm not sure if he's doing it for me or for him. Either way I've been known to have my pockets full of rocks of all shapes and sizes by the end of any given day.

-This year we have also noticed Benjamin stashing laundry under his bed or in the closet when he's supposed to bring it up to his room and put it away in his drawers. He can also be very sneaky about getting out of things that he doesn't want to do. Something that we regularly hear from him at this phase is "I don't want to!" It hasn't quite sunk in that when he's given a chore to do it doesn't matter if he wants to do it or not. It's funny to me that he thinks he doesn't have to do something just because he "doesn't want to." This is an ongoing battle with him, getting him to do what he's told without complaint and on the first time he's asked. Very challenging.

-Something cute that Ben will do is to ask for permission to fall asleep while we are driving somewhere in the car. He will usually say, "Mom, I'm really sleepy." I'll then reply, "Go ahead and fall asleep, bud," and within seconds he is out. He hardly EVER falls asleep without first seeking permission. It is so funny how he does that.

-Ben loves to play the piano and is really good at it. We're not going to have him take lessons until he's in 1st grade but he hears his brothers practicing and he will memorize the songs and play them by ear on the piano. His favorite one is the Indian Song which we hear all the time in our house along with others he's taught himself along the way.


-Ben is funny because he really thinks he's so much older than he is. He usually doesn't like playing with kids his age because he thinks they act like "babies"-his words not mine. He feels much more comfortable playing with kids a year or two older than him. He gets along great with his older brothers friends, which I guess is good. But it cracks us up how he thinks he's at their same level. Sometimes he'll get sideways glances from the older kids but because Jacob and Joseph always include him their friends have just learned to let him play too. It also helps that he is athletically talented and really can hold his own pretty well.

-Ben is an excellent student. He is a young Kindergartner (starting just a month after he turned 5) but at his conference his teacher had glowing reviews about him academically and socially. He's a very quiet and serious boy that keeps to himself most of the time. But he's very attentive and eager to learn. His biggest complaint about school (which I hear frequently when asking him about his day) is that Kindergarten is "boring." He is ready to be challenged and likes to learn new things.

-Benjamin is very sensitive to sounds and temperatures. Things that may not seem loud to others will be so loud to him he covers his ears. Also the temperature of the water in the bath will feel warm to his brothers and to him it feels so hot that he nearly cries when you pour water over his head. I also have to scrub his scalp more gently than I have for the other kids because it hurts him if I shampoo his head in the same way I do the other kids. When we drive on bumpy driveways he will complain that the bumps are giving him a headache. I'm not sure what this means but thought I'd record it anyway.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

JULY MEMORIES

(I know, I know I'm waaaaaaay behind- but the kids are finally back in school and my hectic life is returning to a manageable pace). Now I get to play catch-up .

One hot month with record setting heat, lots of things kept breaking including our AC. Next the dryer died so we strung a clothesline. The same week our renters call and their air's out too. Then our phone lines failed, what is going on? If one more thing breaks around here I'm going to freak! Thank goodness for Daddy a real fix-it man, he saves us so much money, makes me pretty proud. By the end of the week everything's up and running. The house is cool our clothes aren't crunchy and we're talking on the phone again. Who knew that having your dryer fixed could make you so happy to do laundry?


We took the foot ferry to the Fountain Parks in Bremerton. Benjamin is almost 5 and still won't stand under them. Spent the Fourth of July with some really great friends, watched their fireworks show, felt like a kid again. Met Daddy in Seattle and went to a Mariners game. They lost-what's new but we had fun anyway. One night the boys wanted to camp out on the trampoline, by the time we got there with the popcorn they were fast asleep. But less than an hour later they came running inside, leaving their pillows and blankets when they heard coyote cries. Early one morning I was snuggling on the couch with Ben when we looked across the floor and saw a furry friend. I couldn't get a good look from where we sat, so we moved in closer and discovered it was a bat! Totally freaked I woke up the older boys, Jacob "took care of it" I love my brave boys. Swimming at Long Lake then playing at the Park. Who's the Lava Monster? It's Mommy, watch out!


Swimming at Horseshoe Lake then just before leaving "Can we walk over to the dock Mom, just for a minute?" Jacob wanted to jump off, but I didn't think he would. So we walked out to the end I was shocked when he did. Not to be outdone after Jacob jumped in, he was followed by his Kamikaze brothers JoJo and Ben! Needless to say we were there for a while, as they honed their jumping skills and belly flopped with style.
Summer movies at P.O. and G.H.-they're free! Couldn't wait for Lauren to see Little Mermaid on the big screen. Smoothies from Jamba Juice after the show. The best brothers in the world sitting through the Little Mermaid for their little sister. For FHE went skiing on the lake, the boys in inner tubes bouncing across the wake. Finished up the night with Daddy in tow, strapped on Papa's ski and slalomed like a pro. Making banana bread muffins, kids sneaking bites of the batter. After finally getting them in the oven I find Jacob up on the counter. Giving new meaning to the word "finger licking good" he had finger licked that bowl about as much as he possibly could. Great deals at garage sales, Sketchers and Jenga blocks, they drew a tower then built it to scale -future architects?


JULY CAMPING TRIPS.......


Blake Island Canoe Camping Trip

We found a great deal on craigslist for an old canoe big enough to hold a family of 6 with weekend camping gear! Amazing I know!!! We put in that weekend down at the beach near our house. But unfortunately we had to carry the canoe and all our gear out to the waters edge quite a ways since since neither of us bothered to check the tide chart and just happened to head out on a morning where it quite possibly could have been the lowest low tide of the month! That was GREAT planning! Lauren was scared when we first got in. But soon she was settled and had fun while we all paddled 3 miles (one way) out across the strait to Blake Island. I thought my arms were in pretty good shape, yeah, not so much. I felt like a baby when they started aching half way through our trip. Thank goodness Daddy's buff because we would've been stranded out there in the strait. The boys had paddles too but their muscle power wasn't much help either. Daddy tried to make it fun by making up silly songs as we paddled, it was only fun because Daddy can't rhyme and his best efforts only made us laugh even harder. Looking at the kids all snug in their little tent makes me smile to think that one day we won't believe they all used to sleep in there-comfortably.


Once we arrived we were lucky to get one of the only two available campsites. I felt sorry for the old guy next to us, who was probably hoping for a nice quiet weekend getaway. We tried to keep the kids quiet for him but you know how that goes....Didn't feel quite so bad when the same guy had his portable radio on all day listening to some weird SCI-FI talk show. He fell asleep with it right next to his face turned up pretty loud. Finally, when we couldn't take it anymore Aaron crept over to his tent and found the guy's head hanging halfway out with the radio 6 inches away. He was about to turn it off but felt too weird being so close to a perfect stranger in the middle of the night. Awkward, and annoying all at the same time. Finally the guy turned it off (I'm not sure when) but it was sometime before 1 am when we awoke to the sound of some other crazy guy anchored on a sailboat about 50 feet offshore. He was serenading the Puget Sound with his very loud saxophone!!!! It was beautiful music but not at 1am!!! He kept playing and Aaron and I both were worried he was going to wake up the kids. We tried to ask him to keep it down but he and his buddy were obviously drunk and VERY rude!!! Then they came onshore and Aaron grabbed his Man Vs. Wild knife "just in case". We both staked out the campsite in the dark until they left. Turns out they were just taking their dog onshore to go pee. We're nerds.

Hiking around Blake Island

We hiked around the island. Lauren hitched rides on Daddy's shoulders then piggy-backed on her big brothers. In the end her "tooshy shake" on Daddy's back had us all rolling with laughter. We hiked to the beach on the other side of the island where the kids played in the water and hot powdery sand (a rare find at a Washington beach). The boys build a dam that they were very proud of. Then laid in their "clubhouse" (a hollowed out tree).
Played catch with the football along the trail. On the way back JoJo lagged behind bringing up the rear. He walked the whole way back from the beach barefoot because his shoes were wet and he didn't want to wear them. Arghhh! We made rock people with a sharpie then hid them to be found again on our next trip back out there.


We found an even cooler clubhouse just down the beach from our campsite that you could only get to by climbing up into the roots of a fallen tree which led you to a clay tunnel then up into a sand room with roots that the kids climbed up. It was awesome! What a fun weekend, relaxing and close to home. I know we'll do it again but I wish I could just fast forward about 10 more years when I know the boys will be strong enough to paddle us out there themselves.



Lake Cushman Campground


Another fun camping trip, one we've been meaning to do for a while now. A pretty hike along a trail to see a waterfall. Lots of cool stops along the way. The boys loved the huge rock that they pretended to be holding up with their superhero strength. I love little boys. Jacob pretending to be Yoda with his mini hiking stick. Took a nap back at camp in the tent. When I woke up the boys were down by the shallow river next to our campsite doing "bravest boy" competitions. The water was frigid but that didn't stop them. You can really get boys to do anything if you make it a matter of bravery and strength. So funny! Aaron is so much fun with them, why can't I be a more exciting Mom? All I could think about was taking a nap in the great outdoors, I'm always so tired, as a result of my fatigue I only caught the end of the bravest boy competition. ):




Lake Cresent Camping


One of our favorite campsites on the pristine shores of lake Cresent. We had a great campsite right on the water, you can't beat that view. The last time we were here I was 8 months pregnant with Lauren. Time sure flies. The boys were skipping rocks as usual, bathing in the lake, making boats out of leaves and bark then setting them off on their maiden voyage. Later, after they had drifted out too deep to reach they threw rocks again trying to sink them. So clever. Reading the BFG around the campfire. Bathing in the lake, enjoying the beauty of this incredible place.



Hurricane Ridge

Aaron has been wanting to go to Hurricane ridge in the winter time to go sledding for a long time but it seems like we always end up settling for Snoqualmie's slopes instead. So, on our drive back from Lake Cresent we stopped at Hurricane ridge since it was kind of on our way back home. All I have to say is spectacular and amazing! I would have never thought to come here in the middle of the summer but I'm so glad we did. The view was absolutely incredible. The beauty of the mountain wildflowers, the deer grazing on the slopes, the gentle breeze and and the peaceful stillness that surrounded you. I felt a peaceful reverence while there that I've never felt while on a hike. I couldn't help but think about how the mountaintops were used in old testament times as temples. The trails were short (1-2 miles) and great for kids although it scared me to death on some parts of the trail where if you weren't careful and veered off the path even a few feet and lost your footing you would be a goner tumbling down the hill hundreds of feet. A very humbling thought and very a great spiritual parallel too . The picture of our family has a view in the background of the pacific ocean near Port Angeles. You can even see Canada in the background on the other side of the water. It was so incredible.



THE PIONEER TREK

This was definitely one of the highlights of July and our summer. When I was 15 I went on a Pioneer Trek as a stake youth conference and since then I've always wanted to do it again. So when Aaron and I were asked to be a Ma and Pa I eagerly accepted for both of us. Of course it ended up being a great experience. Aarons parents and my uncle took turns watching the kids and while away from our 4 little ones we were entrusted with 10 children: 5 daughters (Alex, Jackie, Larissa, Claira & Stephanie) and 5 sons (Evan, Scott, Zak, Nelson & Brady) for the 4-day adventure. We couldn't have asked for a better group of kids. They were all so much fun and such a joy to "parent." I really grew to know and love each of them and felt so grateful to be able to share in this experience with them. It was so fun to be a girl again and lay out under the stars with my sweet daughters talking about boys, dating and first kisses. And then as the hours stretched deep into the night finding ourselves engaged in meaningful discussions about the gospel, sharing our testimonies and our faith. Encouraging them on their path, so proud of the lovely young ladies that they are becoming. My sons were great too. Some of them stronger than others (; It reconfirmed to me the importance of teaching boys how to work. I loved them all dearly but found it so entertaining to see the different levels of physical and mental strength that they possessed. Some of them were "strong like an ox" pushing & pulling those handcarts up hills through rivers, etc. And then others were content to leisurely walk along the side while their sisters and mother did the majority of the work. Sometimes even lagging behind or asking if they could ride in the cart while we ladies pushed. It didn't make me mad at all I just found it very interesting. Aaron, however was not amused. He knew though that it was more important to help these youth have a positive experience and so he bit his tongue and practiced patience. In the end the lesson that I took away from much of this weekend was the importance of not judging but loving others for where they're at and being accepting of their offering however small it may be. I genuinely believe that those of my children who were not pushing or pulling their fair share were doing the best that they could do. It made me think of our Savior and His love and acceptance for each of us and where we're individually at. He doesn't hold us all to the same measuring stick. He is loving and compassionate to our individual abilities and only asks us to do the very best that WE can do. I know a lot of our sons and daughters were doing just that. But with that aside I just have to say that 2 of my daughters thoroughly impressed me. They were with me side by side as we pushed and pulled up and down dusty hills and steep mountain slopes over rocky trails and through freezing rivers. I felt proud to call them my daughters and was grateful for their hard work. They were my kindred sisters, and I bonded with them in a way different than the rest. But all were wonderful children.

Fun times were to be had after the long hours of pushing and pulling. Jumping in the river to cool down (and get clean), the stick pull for the Pa's (my husbands so strong), and even me arm wrestling a 17 year old boy which ended in a dead tie for over 10 minutes. They finally called it. Aaron doing back flips off the log above the river. Our Napoleon Dynamite themed skit where we traveled back in time using a plunger and a bead pan. Stargazing up at the incredible sky, watching shooting stars, eating burned oatmeal, telling funny jokes, playing hand slap games, trying not to laugh when one of my sons was using a pair of his underwear for a pot holder. Then on the last night dashing under the cover of trees when an un-forecasted weather system moved in and got us all wet. Good times and great memories, I hope we can do it again in 4 years.